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November 6, 2013 No.
1033

MEMRI's Behind-The-Scenes Role In Twitter's Shutdown Of Accounts Belonging To Designated Terrorists: The Case Of Al-Qaeda Affiliate Al-Shabaab And The Westgate Mall Attack

Introduction

When the Somali Al-Qaeda affiliate Al-Shabaab Al-Mujahideen launched its September 21, 2013 attack on the Westgate Mall in Nairobi, Kenya, it had an important tool at its disposal for disseminating information about its actions and its ideology – the microblogging service Twitter. Al-Shabaab tweeted step-by-step details of the attack, from taking credit for it and explaining its reasons to releasing information about its killing of over 60 civilians, to the names and nationalities of its fighters participating in the operation, and more – all in real time. During the attack, and as soon as the media began reporting that Al-Shabaab not only had a Twitter account but was actively tweeting during the attack, Twitter shut it down; Al-Shabaab then moved rapidly through a series of official and unofficial accounts and handles to continue to get its message out.

With the Westgate attack, the threat of designated terrorists, including Al-Qaeda affiliates, using Twitter has finally grabbed the world's attention.

MEMRI – At The Forefront Of The Push For Twitter's Removal Of Accounts Of Designated Terrorists

Al-Shabaab should not have had Twitter at its disposal when it was carrying out the Westgate attack. For nearly two years, or since Al-Shabaab began tweeting in late 2011, MEMRI has been warning of the dangers inherent in providing Foreign Terrorist Organizations, Specially Designated Global Terrorists, Specially Designated Nationals, and other jihadi and terrorist organizations and individuals such as Al-Shabaab with access to Twitter accounts, beginning with its report Somali Al-Qaeda Affiliate Al-Shabaab Tweets Jihad and Martyrdom.

Since then, as the initial handful of such Twitter accounts quickly became a few hundred and then multiplied into thousands, until they could no longer be counted, MEMRI has published over a dozen research reports on how these organization use Twitter to promote their agendas, spread their messages, call for attacks against American and Western interests, recruit new members and build their audience of sympathizers, raise funds, and other purposes (see Appendix I: MEMRI Reports On Terrorists' Use Of Twitter).

Al-Shabaab had been operating unimpeded for over a year before Twitter shut it down for the first time, in January 2013. During this time, MEMRI repeatedly wrote to Twitter CEO Dick Costolo in an attempt to inform the company on the matter, stressing how the service's growing use by jihadis would pose a threat and offering assistance – but to no avail. Also during this time, MEMRI conducted briefings on Capitol Hill, and there was Congressional discussion with the FBI on the issue.

Following the January 2013 shutdown of its Twitter account, Al-Shabaab promptly opened another, which was active for over eight months before Twitter shut that one, just two weeks prior to the Westgate attack. Following that shutdown, Al-Shabaab opened yet another.

Al-Shabaab, Specially Designated Global Terrorist; Official U.S. Statements On Al-Shabaab Tweeting

On February 26, 2008, the U.S. government, pursuant to Section 1(b) of Executive Order 13224, designated Al-Shabaab a Specially Designated Global Terrorist. The Department of State announcement noted that the group "poses a significant risk of committing, acts of terrorism that threaten the security of U.S. nationals or the national security, foreign policy, or economy of the United States."[1]

Al-Shabaab has frequently threatened to attack the U.S. Following the killing of Osama bin Laden, the group vowed to continue the jihad against the U.S.[2] An October 29, 2011 message from Al-Shabaab read: "My brothers and sisters[,] do jihad in America, do jihad in Canada, do jihad in England, anywhere in Europe, in Asia, in Africa, in China, anywhere you find kuffar. Fight them, and be firm against them."[3] On May 8, 2011, senior Al-Shabaab commander Fu'ad Shongole threatened to kill U.S. citizens in revenge for bin Laden's killing, saying: "We are sending the Americans and their allies the following message: You made us a target, so we will make you a target and kill Americans wherever we find them."[4]

When it was discovered that Al-Shabaab, had opened a Twitter account and begun tweeting on December 7, 2011, questions arose regarding whether the U.S. government – or Twitter itself – would take action.

A State Department spokesman said, "We are looking closely at the facts of this situation to determine what the appropriate next steps might be."[5] According to a December 20, 2011 New York Times report, "some American officials said the government was exploring legal options to shut down the Shabaab's new Twitter account, potentially opening a debate over the line between free speech and support for terrorism... American officials said they were worried that the Shabaab might be using Twitter to reach potential recruits in the West."[6]

Asked about the matter at a January 10, 2012 State Department function, then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's Senior Advisor for Innovation Alec Ross said: "In terms of your question about Al-Shabaab, I have absolutely no sympathy for Al-Shabaab or for any terrorist organization. And so for me to think about whether they should have the right to use Twitter or not, I go to a more fundamental question, which is: Do they have the right to exist or not? So we can sit here and debate freedom of expression as it exists to terrorist – about terrorist organizations. But my question about terrorist organizations is far more fundamental. Should they exist? And my answer to that is no. They should be dismantled; they should be destroyed. And so in terms of Al-Shabaab and other institutions that are purveyors of terror, they're going to get absolutely no sympathy from me, and they certainly aren't going to see me advocate for their rights."[7]

MEMRI's Extensive Research, Briefings On Capitol Hill About Terrorists' Use Of Twitter Led To Letter By Members Of Congress To FBI Demanding Action To Shut Down These Accounts

MEMRI has brought the issue of terrorist use of Twitter to the attention of Congress. It has conducted briefings to a bipartisan array of Senators and Members of Congress, with a special focus on which terror groups are using Twitter, the purposes for which they use it and how it enables them, how the number of terrorist Twitter accounts is increasing exponentially, and how Twitter was doing nothing to stop them.

One member of Congress who early on understood the dangers of the use of Twitter by jihadis and terrorists such as Al-Shabaab, and who has taken a leadership role in dealing with this, is former judge and current Member of Congress and Chairman of the House Subcommittee on Terrorism, Nonproliferation, and Trade Rep. Ted Poe (R-TX). MEMRI has worked very closely with Rep. Poe, and this work ultimately led to a Congressional letter to the FBI to stress to it the importance of acting to close terrorist Twitter accounts.

Congressional Letter To FBI Urging It To Help Put A Stop To Terrorist Use Of Twitter

Because of MEMRI's research, Capitol Hill briefings, monitoring of the issue, ongoing updating of Members of Congress, and education efforts demonstrating the issue's rapidly increasing scope, Members of Congress began working with the FBI to craft a policy regarding active terrorist accounts on Twitter, and ultimately, in September 2012, authored the Congressional letter to FBI Director Mueller, stressing the extensive use of Twitter by terrorist groups and asking the FBI to help put a stop to it. The letter, dated September 21, 2012, relied entirely on MEMRI research; it was signed by several Members, who at the time all sat on the House Foreign Affairs, Homeland Security, and/or Judiciary Committees (see Appendix I: Congressional Letter).

This letter, and lengthy discussion between Capitol Hill and the FBI and the FBI and Twitter, led to Twitter's shutdown, in January 2013, of a handful of terrorist accounts, including Al-Shabaab's, @HSMPress. This letter, which opened, "We are writing to express our concern about designated Foreign Terrorist Organizations' (FTOs) use of Twitter to further their jihadist agendas," went on to name several organizations – Al-Shabaab, Hamas, and Hizbullah – that are very actively tweeting and encouraging violent acts, and described the content of some of these tweets. Noting that "FTO use of Twitter to encourage violence or to recruit others in furtherance of terrorism is not protected by free speech rights," and stating that other social media companies had created policies to protect the public, it concluded: "We respectfully ask for the FBI to consider its policy regarding Twitter accounts and use the tools that Congress has granted it in order to halt the spread of terrorist propaganda and to try to limit the expansion of these organizations."

Rep. Poe at October 3, 2013 Congressional Panel Hearing: "Twitter Knew About Al-Shabaab's Account A Year Before The Attack – But Twitter Refused To Take It Down"

At a panel hearing in the wake of the Westgate attack that focused on the Al-Shabaab threat to U.S. embassies and interests in Africa and potentially on U.S. soil as well, Rep. Poe criticized Twitter's continued enabling of Al-Shabaab's and other terrorists' tweeting and its refusal to remove terrorist accounts.

On October 3, 2013, he said: "While the attack on the Westgate Mall in Kenya was ongoing, the terrorist group that [was] responsible – Al Shabaab – was sending out multiple tweets. Twitter knew about Al-Shabaab's account a year before the attack, but Twitter refused to take it down. Unlike Facebook and YouTube, which do go after these terrorist accounts, Twitter waits for the FBI to tell them [to do so] – but the FBI remains silent apparently because they want to collect more information [from them]. It is against U.S. law to support terrorists, and Twitter claims it does not allow terrorists to use Twitter. The problem, Twitter says, is that it has no way of knowing if an account really is run by a terrorist group. But Twitter has another rule. You can't have a false identity on Twitter. So either way Twitter should be taking terrorist accounts down... It is time for Twitter to stop violating U.S. law and giving terrorists a free venue to release their propaganda to the world."[8]

It should be noted that even if Twitter is unsure whether an account, in Rep Poe's words, "really is run by a terrorist group," it should certainly be able to identify content that is clearly terrorist and in violation of its own Terms of Service – for example that contains videos of Osama bin Laden and other Al-Qaeda leaders, in addition to the Al-Qaeda logo and photos or videos of weapons and dead bodies.

FBI Director Mueller In March 2012: On Twitter, "Terrorists Are Not Only Sharing Ideas; They Are Soliciting Information And Inviting Communication"

The FBI has been hesitant to act in this matter. However, in testimony to Congress in March 2012, then-FBI Director Robert Mueller spoke of Twitter as instrumental in the evolution and expansion of terrorist communication. He said: "Of particular note is Al-Qaeda's use of online chat rooms and websites to recruit and radicalize followers to commit acts of terrorism. And they are not hiding in the shadows of cyberspace…Terrorists are not only sharing ideas; they are soliciting information and inviting communication. Al-Shabaab, the Al-Qaeda affiliate in Somalia, uses Twitter to taunt its enemies – in English – and encourage terrorist activity."[9]

Following Congressional meetings with Twitter, the company has stated that it would only remove accounts if the FBI subpoenaed it.[10] The end result has been, as Rep. Poe stated, that terrorist Twitter accounts remain for the most part free to operate undisturbed.

Al-Shabaab's Removal From Twitter – For Now – And Its Impact

As of this writing, MEMRI has not identified any new accounts that are being used by Al-Shabaab. The removal of the organization's accounts on Twitter has severely impeded its efforts to disseminate its voice to the world, and has made it more difficult for it to communicate with its followers, potential recruits, and the media – which have always been of the utmost importance to it.

Al-Shabaab's Twitter Presence 2011-2013 – Chronology And Highlights

On December 7, 2011, Al-Shabaab entered the Twitterverse;[11] a tweet on its new official Twitter page stated "Martyrdom seeker infiltrates K4 circle in #Mogadishu. 3#Ugandanm 7 TFG soldiers pronounced dead on the scene. 2 mercenaries injured."[12] The official Al-Shabaab Twitter page was titled "HSM Press – Harakat Al-Shabaab Al Mujahideen Press Office," and its avatar was (and has been on all subsequent Twitter accounts) the Al-Qaeda flag. On December 10, 2011, the HSM Press Office changed its "Bio" to "Harakat Al-Shabaab Al Mujahideen is an Islamic movement that governs South & Cen. Somalia & part of the global struggle towards the revival of Islamic Khilaafa." By December 12, 2011, the page had 56 tweets and 2,489 followers.

This original @HSMPress account also used a Yahoo Account, [email protected], to connect with media and potential new Al-Shabaab members. Also, on January 1, 2011 Al-Shabaab published a list of the email addresses of its media wing, Al-Kataib. The statement, released on the Shumoukh Al-Islam jihadi forum, said that the email addresses [email protected], [email protected], and [email protected] were being provided so that anyone could convey an opinion, idea, or advice to the group. The statement also included the encryption key code to be used when corresponding.[13]

As a matter of fact, Al-Shabaab's use of Twitter over two years later, during its attack on the Westgate mall, should come as no surprise. The organization is known to be media savvy; its leaders frequently hold press conferences with major media outlets, including Al-Jazeera, in attendance. In addition to its media wing, Al-Kataib, it maintains an Internet TV network with the same name as well as a radio station, Al-Andalus. It also puts out a great many press releases, which are distributed on major jihadi Internet forums.

Al-Shabaab Tweets That U.S. Government Will Issue Subpoena For Information On Its Twitter Account

Following FBI Dircctor Robert Mueller's March 2012 testimony to Congress on the importance of Twitter in the expansion of terrorist communication, a series of March 10, 2012 Al-Shabaab (@HSMPress) tweets referred to a subpoena which might shut its account down:

  • "Subpoena cites Executive Order 13224 & 13536 requesting info regarding HSMPress-perhaps a motion to quash the legal process should be filed?"

  • "Subpoena is said to be from the US Department of Treasury, Office of Foreign Assets Control – dated 15/Feb/2012 and with ref number SOM-1309"

  • "On March 7, precisely 3months after our first tweet on this platform, Twitter notifies HSM that an Administrative Subpoena has been received"[14]

Tweets From Al-Shabaab's Original Account

The following are highlights of tweets from this account, from the month leading up to the January 2013 shutdown:

December 14, 2012: Al-Shabaab Tweets Unsubstantiated Claims That It Has Targeted "Top U.S. Counterterrorism Official" Who Was "Setting Up New U.S. Base In Mogadishu" For Assisting Drone Ops

On December 14, 2012, the Somali Al-Qaeda affiliate group Al-Shabaab Al-Mujahideen claimed via Twitter that its "intelligence units" had carried out an attack in Mogadishu on "a convoy carrying [a] top U.S. counterterrorism official."

The tweets stated that the attack had targeted "Brig.-Gen. Davis Julius," the "U.S. head of counterterrorism operations in E. Africa," whose movements had been tracked by Al-Shabaab intelligence for the past few weeks, "as he began setting up a new US base in Mogadishu." The attack had wounded him and also "instantly kill[ed] senior AU escorts," the tweets claimed.

According to the tweets, this base in Mogadishu is to be constructed inside the presidential compound and run by U.S. officials, "to act as a reconnaissance & surveillance centre" and to "assist U.S. drone operations with intelligence gathering and interception of the Mujahideen's telecommunications network."[15]

January 12: Al-Shabaab Tweets Announcement Following Unsuccessful French Raid

On January 12, 2013, following an unsuccessful French commando raid to rescue French hostage Denis Allex, Al-Shabaab Al-Mujahideen tweeted an announcement in English in which it gave its version of the events. The organization claimed that the French operation had been based on "an intelligence blunder," and that the French force had sustained several fatalities before fleeing the battlefield, leaving behind some of its equipment. It announced that it would issue "the final verdict" for Allex within two days, providing no further details about his condition.

January 14: Al-Shabaab Tweets That That French Soldier Captured During Rescue Raid Has Died, Says It Will Announce Fate Of Hostage Denis Allex Within Hours

On January 14, 2013, Al-Shabaab Al-Mujahideen tweeted a statement according to which the French commando who it said had been wounded and subsequently captured by the group during the previous week's failed operation had died of his wounds in hospital, and included several grisly images of the dead soldier. In one of the photos, a cross could be seen around the dead soldier's neck; Al-Shabaab commented, "A return of the crusades, but the cross could not save him from the sword." It also tweeted a photo of captured French weapons.


Al-Shabaab tweets, January 14, 2013; tweeted photos of dead soldier, with comment about cross.[16]

January 16: Al-Shabaab Tweets That It Has Decided To Execute French Hostage Denis Allex – And, Later, That "Denis Allex Is Executed"

On January 16, 2013, Al-Shabaab (@hsmpress) tweeted that it had decided to execute Denis Allex, following the failed French operation on January 12 to free him. The execution, it said, would avenge the deaths of civilians killed during the operation. The tweet included a lengthy statement in English.[17]

Later that day, the group tweeted that Denis Allex "is executed."

"Denis Allex is executed."[18]

January 21: Al-Shabaab Tweets About U.K. National "Killed In Battle" In Mogadishu

On January 21, 2012, Al-Shabaab tweeted that "Said Abdi Jaras of South East London was killed in battle near the University of Mogadishu."[19]

After Two Years Of Unimpeded Activity, Original Al-Shabaab Twitter Account Shut Down

This original Twitter account, @HSMPress, remained active for over two years, until it was suspended in late January 2013. Although Twitter would not confirm that it shut down the account, a message on the page states "The profile you are trying to view has been suspended."

Al-Shabaab's Arabic-language Twitter account confirmed the suspension, and added that this was a violation of its freedom of expression.


The Al-Shabaab Twitter page, January 25, 2013

Al-Shabaab's Arabic account, which had also posted the previous days' photos and threats, was not shut down.

Following the shutdown of Al-Shabaab's Twitter page, the Al-Qaeda affiliate in Kenya, MYC Press, tweeted from its account, @MYC_Press, that the account had been taken down because of MEMRI and linked to MEMRI Inquiry and Analysis No. 849, HASHTAG #Jihad: Charting Jihadi-Terrorist Organizations' Use Of Twitter, June 21, 2012.

Offline For Less Than Two Weeks, On February 2013, Al-Shabaab Opens New Twitter Account

Following the January shutdown of its @HSMPress Twitter account, a new account, @HSMPress1, was opened on February 4, 2013. The following are highlights of tweets from that account:

On July 13, Al-Shabaab took credit for a suicide operation that it claimed had killed African and U.S. intelligence operatives and, most importantly, had severely wounded CIA director of operations in East Africa Gary Schroen.: It tweeted, using the Twitlonger service: "The Mujahideen yesterday carried out a Martyrdom operation targeting a convoy of African Crusaders that was escorting senior US intelligence officials from the airport. The main target of the operation, HSM intelligence department has confirmed, was Gary Schroen, director of CIA operations in East Africa and who was severely wounded in the attack... We ask Allah to accept our brother who carried out this operation and grant him the highest levels of Jannah. On their part, the Mujahideen have renewed their resolve to hunt down all US intelligence teams in Somalia and will continue to send wave upon wave of Martyrdom seekers until the Crusaders and their allies are completely vanquished and the Law off Allah prevails over the land."

On June 22, Al-Shabaab tweeted: "Islam will remain forever an impregnable fortress and the Mujahideen of Somalia will never allow forces of Kufr to inhabit this Muslim land."


@hsmpress1, accessed June 24, 2013.

September 6, 2013: Al-Shabaab Twitter Account Shut Down – And New Account Reported Four Days Later

This Twitter account, @HSMPress1, operated freely until September 6, just prior to the Westgate terror attack.[20] Following that Sept 6 shutdown, another Al-Shabaab Twitter account, @HSM_Press, was reported up and running on September 10[21]; the following day, September 11, the group tweeted praise for the 9/11 hijackers, and vowed "to continue with Jihad against the West until the world is ruled by one sovereign state, an Islamic state."

Al-Shabaab's tweets were posted on the group's new account, @HSM_Press, which was created on September 10, 2013, after Twitter suspended the previous account. In a statement, Al-Shabaab said that this was the second time that Twitter had suspended its account.

Below are highlights from the series of tweets posted by Al-Shabaab on September 11, 2013:

  • "12 years ago, American exceptionalism was at its highest. The #US seemed invincible and was finalizing the framework for a global empire."

  • "But with 911, that view was buried with the debris of Twin Towers & US was revealed to be nothing but a paper tiger. 911 changed perceptions."

  • "A single attack by the Mujahideen shattered US dreams of global domination, tarnished their reputation and severely crippled their economy."

  • "The US wasn't attacked by a military might matching theirs, but by 19 young men armed with a rigid faith & a firm conviction. They succeeded."

  • "Today, the spark ignited by those courageous 19 Martyrs has grown into a raging inferno that continues to threaten every Kafir aggressor."

  • "Throughout the Jihad fronts, the Mujahideen are doing what America's economic and political rivals could not; challenge #US global dominance."

  • "Avenging the death of our Muslim brothers in Afghanistan, the Mujahideen in Somalia eliminated Gary Schroen who claimed to be the 'First in.'"

  • "Insha'Allah the Mujahideen will continue with their Jihad against the West until the world is ruled by one sovereign state; an Islamic state."

September 21-23, 2013: Al-Shabaab Tweets During Westgate Mall Attack – Using Different Twitter Accounts

On September 21, 2013, Al-Shabaab tweeted from @HSM_Press, "For long we have waged war against the Kenyans in our land, now it's time to shift the battleground and take the war to their land #Westgate"

That same day, it posted a number of tweets, from @HSM_Press:


Al-Shabaab tweets from @HSM_Press before it was suspended. Source: https://twitter.com/rajudasonline/status/381658368223350784/photo/1 accessed October 7, 2013

Also on September 21, it tweeted from another account, @HSMPress_: "AlShabaab confirms its behind the #Westgate spectacle."

The next day, September 22, 2013, Al-Shabaab tweeted from yet another account, @HSM_PressOffice:

Hours later the same day, it tweeted the names of fighters from the U.S. who were participating in the attack, from still another account, @HSM_Press2:


Al-Shabaab tweets from @HSM_Press2 before it was suspended. Source: https://twitter.com/Nesh_maina/status/381835830202871808/photo/1, accessed October 7, 2013

Another tweet, sent moments later from the same account, included the names of more fighters in the attack from Canada, Finland, and the UK in addition to Somalia. [22]


Source: https://twitter.com/jimmynastic/status/381839289559965696/photo/1 accessed October 7, 2013

As seen above, during September 21-22, Al-Shabaab's Twitter accounts were shut down and new ones were opened, in rapid succession. Also, on September 24, Al-Shabaab's Arabic-language account @HSMPress_arabic was suspended.

October 7: Al-Shabaab Claims Via Twitter That It Executed Two Navy SEALs

On October 7, Al-Shabaab tweeted from a new account, @HSM_PRO, that it had executed two Navy SEALs that it had captured during the U.S.'s October 5, 2013 raid on Al-Shabaab's base in Baraawe. The U.S., however, has said that its forces incurred no casualties during the raid.

In its tweeted announcement, Al-Shabaab released photos of two bodies, allegedly those of the two SEALs. It is difficult to verify the photos' authenticity, as the two men's faces are disfigured beyond recognition (the photos are available from MEMRI upon request). Al-Shabaab also released photos of equipment allegedly carried by some of the U.S. troops, including ammunition, water bottles and a GPS device.

Al-Shabaab added that its leader was not hurt in the attack, stating: "[Al-Shabaab Al-Mujahideen] Emir Mukhtar Abu Zubeyr (Ahmed Abdi Godane) is in his full health & leading the Mujahideen. He remained unharmed at the time of the Raid."


Photos from the tweets

October 17: Al-Shabaab Releases New Video Justifying Woolwich Attack

A video released October 17, 2013 by Al-Shabaab via the Twitter account @muhib_zubeer justified the May 2013 killing of British soldier Lee Rigby in Woolwich, London, saying that it was a logical response to the U.K.'s crimes against Muslims worldwide.[23] The video urged Muslims living in the West to follow in the footsteps of the Woolwich attackers and of Fort Hood shooter Nidal Hasan, Times Square bomber Faisal Shahzad, and "underwear bomber" Umar Farouk Abdulmuttalab, and Toulouse shooter Mohammad Merah, and featured several British Muslims who had gone to Somalia to fight with Al-Shabaab.[24]


@muhib_zubeer link to the video on YouTube; the video has been removed by YouTube.

Conclusion

According to Twitter's Terms of Services, no "person barred from receiving services under the laws of the U.S." may hold a Twitter account,[25] and users "may not publish or post direct, specific threats of violence against others."[26]

But Twitter did not implement this to stop any of the world's major terrorist groups from tweeting. In its work with Members of Congress, MEMRI has repeatedly emphasized that terrorists' use of Twitter violates the company's own terms of service, and that the company is not implementing them. Until January 2013, Twitter had taken no steps towards implementing its own regulations, refraining completely from addressing the issue of jihadis' and terrorists' use of its service.

The MEMRI Jihad and Terrorism Threat Monitor (JTTM) project continues to monitor the continuing rapid exponential expansion of this phenomenon, as Twitter is increasingly used for terrorist fundraising campaigns, recruitment, hashtags celebrating suicide bombings, and much more.

What happened during the Westgate attacks, and today's exploding use of Twitter by these elements, is exactly the scenario that MEMRI has been warning about. Twitter could easily have stopped Al-Shabaab from using its services at a much earlier stage, but despite repeated warnings chose not to do so.

While Twitter is to be commended for beginning to shut down the accounts of designated terrorists – a move most likely because of its recent filing for an initial public offering (IPO) – the problem of the many thousands of designated and other terrorist and jihadi accounts on Twitter remains. Twitter may have targeted Al-Shabaab's accounts for shutdown, but it has left nearly all the other designated terrorists' accounts untouched, so that these organizations can continue tweeting – Al-Qaeda affiliate in Syria Jabhat Al-Nusra, the Taliban, Hizbullah, Hamas, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LEJ), and countless others.

*Steven Stalinsky is Executive Director of MEMRI; R. Sosnow is Head Editor at MEMRI.

Appendix I: MEMRI Reports On Terrorists' Use Of Twitter

Appendix II: Congressional Letter


Endnotes:

[1] U.S. State Department, February 26, 2008, http://www.state.gov/s/ct/rls/other/des/102448.htm: "In the Matter of the Designation of al-Shabaab... as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist pursuant to Section 1(b) of Executive Order 13224, as Amended. Acting under the authority of and in accordance with Section 1(b) of Executive Order 13224 of September 23, 2001... I hereby determine that the organization known as al-Shabaab... has committed, or poses a significant risk of committing, acts of terrorism that threaten the security of U.S. nationals or the national security, foreign policy, or economy of the United States. Consistent with the determination in Section 10 of Executive Order 13224 that 'prior notice to persons determined to be subject to the Order who might have a constitutional presence in the United States would render ineffectual the blocking and other measures authorized in the Order because of the ability to transfer funds instantaneously,' I determine that no prior notice needs to be provided to any person subject to this determination who might have a constitutional presence in the United States, because to do so would render ineffectual the measures authorized in the Order."

[5] The New York Times, December 20, 2011.

[6] The New York Times, December 20, 2011.

[8] According to Twitter's Terms of Services, no "person barred from receiving services under the laws of the U.S." may hold a Twitter account. Twitter.com/tos. Rep. Poe's statements were transcribed from a live broadcast on Foreignaffairs.com, October 3, 2013.

[10] MEMRI Inquiry & Analysis No. 849, HASHTAG #Jihad: Charting Jihadi-Terrorist Organizations' Use Of Twitter, June 21, 2012.

[11] It should be noted that while Al-Shabaab's main tweets, and the ones discussed in this report, have been from its English-language Twitter accounts aimed at the West, the organization has also throughout maintained an account in Arabic; the majority of jihadis who use Twitter tweet only in Arabic.

[12] Accessed December 13, 2011. http://twitter.com/#!/HSMPress

[13] See MEMRI JTTM report Al-Shabab Provides Email Addresses Of Its Media Company January 3, 2011.

[14] "Executive Order 13224 & 13536" in the Al-Shabaab tweets refers to the U.S. government's citation of those orders when issuing a subpoena to request information on Al-Shabaab's Twitter account. "EO 13224" is the Executive Order signed by former President Bush that provides a way of disrupting the financial support network for terrorists and terrorist organizations by authorizing the government to designate and block the assets of foreign individuals and entities that commit, or pose a significant risk of committing, acts of terrorism. "EO 13536" is the Order signed by President Obama that blocks property of certain persons contributing to the conflict in Somalia.

[15] None of Al-Shabaab's tweeted claims were ever independently verified.

[16] Twitter.com/HSMPress/status/291818315217784832?p=v. This Twitter account is no longer active.

[18] Twitter.com/HSMPress/status/291818315217784832?p=v. This Twitter account is no longer active.

[19] On January 24, the U.K. Foreign and Commonwealth Office said that it was investigating reports on the matter and that it could not verify anything; U.K. media asked for any information regarding "Said Abdi Jaras." http://www.eastlondonlines.co.uk/2012/01/breaking-man-from-deptford-killed-in-somali-missile-attack/.

[20] New York Times, September 6, 2013.

[22] See also MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 5456, List Of Nairobi Attackers, Including Westerners, Published On Social Media, September 24, 2013.

[25] Twitter.com/tos, accessed October 25, 2013.

[26] Twitter.com/articles/18311-the-twitter-rules, accessed October 25, 2013.